I understand that we live in a free country and it is legal to do it, but few things bother me as much as the idea of smoking. Yes, I tried it and, luckily, it didn't take. However, I have loved ones who smoke and it breaks my heart to think that they are seemingly locked into such a foolish and purposeless habit that will surely shorten and complicate their lives. I love them and I wish I could help them quit. My father smoked from the age of 10 and struggled to stop in his later years. He died of heart disease when he was only 58 and I miss him. My children never had the oportunity to know him. Every time I see a young person lighting up I feel sad for them and their families who love them. For what it's worth, I offer the following.
“SMOKE, SMOKE, SMOKE THAT CIGARETTE”
SMOKING IS A NUISANCE
The lyrics of the song say:
Smoke, smoke, smoke that cigarette,
Smoke, smoke, smoke…
And when you smoke yourself to death,
Tell Saint Peter at the Golden Gate,
That he’s just gonna have to wait.
You’ve just got to have another cigarette.
The song is about the frustration we feel with the inconvenience caused by people who stop what they are doing—no matter the importance—to feed their addiction to smoking tobacco. In reality, the greatest inconvenience is caused by the ultimate deadly results of a lifetime of smoking. In 1978, my father died at the age of 58 from heart disease. It is likely that his addiction to tobacco and close to 50 years of physical abuse to his own body dramatically shortened his life and left a wife and two children—my siblings—ages 10 and 16 without husband and father. This inconvenience has been proliferated amongst us here in America from generation to generation for over 400 years. During the last 50 years we have suffered the effects of the drug abuse of tobacco and its “inconvenience” to health and life with relatively open eyes, inexplicably ignoring science’s warnings of the health hazards associated with tobacco use. Some of us continue to smoke in the face of growing understanding of the dire consequences and growing social pressure against it because we are still, to a degree, buying the notion that it is somehow cool.
WHY DID WE EVER START?
Sir Walter Raleigh, the English adventurer and colonizer of North America has been accredited in legend with bringing tobacco use from the Americas to Europe and beginning an industry that would help make some of the early English colonies in the southern part of North America profitable. Raleigh was beheaded by King James I in 1603 for instigating trouble with Spain, but, alas, too late to prevent the birth of tobacco consumption. It was actually John Rolfe, the Englishman who married the Powhatan princess, Pocahontas, who perfected a salable variety of tobacco that produced a valuable crop for Virginia colonists and a product that would continue to grow in popularity in Europe and the Americas until the present. Little was known for sure about the ill effects of smoking tobacco for over three hundred years, but, apparently, some people were suspicious of its health value. Some religious groups believed tobacco use to be an evil. In some countries in the 16th and 17th centuries, tobacco users could have been punished by mutilation or death. In 1833, Joseph Smith, the Mormon prophet decreed, in what would become known as “The Word of Wisdom,” a health code for his followers, that Tobacco, was “not for the body, neither for the belly, and is not good for man….” Even so, tobacco use continued to grow through the centuries, with many considering it to be a sign of maturity, manhood, or sophistication.
THE WORLD’S ON FIRE
Today the whole world seems to smoke, though the statistics vary from nation to nation and tend to differ between the sexes. Over 1.1 billion smokers amount to 30% of the world’s population. Smoking seems to be very popular in the Orient, but only among the male populations. In the Republic of Korea, for example, 68.2% of men smoke compared to only 6.7% of women. Smoking in Europe and the United States has been declining on average, but seems to be an equal opportunity bad habit. Twenty-seven percent of men in the United States smoke compared to 22.5% of women, while in Denmark the men and women are virtually tied at 37% each. Kentucky is the state with the highest percentage of smokers (28%) while Utah—predominantly Mormon—is the lowest (13%).
WHY NOT SMOKE?
Despite the image that has been promoted in the media, most smokers that have been smoking long-term would rather not smoke. Many have tried multiple times to quit without success. Due to nicotine, the most active of the thousands of chemical agents in tobacco, the human body learns to crave smoking. The addictiveness of tobacco, due to nicotine, keeps people smoking long enough and heavily enough for the other toxic chemicals to do their destructive work on the human body. Like cocaine and caffeine, nicotine is a stimulant that alters behavior, affecting the function of the brain and nervous system. It has the capacity to “diminish appetite, boost alertness and mental efficiency, calms anxiety, and reduces sensitivity to pain.” Such effects might seem attractive if not for the fact that it is addictive. The smoking addiction also promotes lung cancer, cancer of the bladder, oral cancer, heart disease, and is responsible for spontaneous abortions, stillbirth, low birth-weights, and early births for pregnant women. Each time a person smokes, he raises his blood pressure and heart rate, putting extra strain on his heart and blood vessels, increasing the chance of a heart attack. The carbon monoxide in tobacco smoke decreases the amount of oxygen that the blood can carry to muscles, brain, and other body tissues and limits the power that the lung has to clean itself, increasing the chance of lung infections. Also, smokers tend to have poorer eating habits than non-smokers and they are apt to drink more alcohol, taking in lower quantities of nutrient antioxidants.
Statistical studies provide pretty good arguments against smoking. A quarter of all regular smokers will die prematurely due to disease associated with smoking, losing 10 to 15 years of their lives. Smoking is the cause of 90% of lung cancer deaths, 25% of heart disease deaths, and 75% of the deaths from bronchitis and emphysema. Smokers have more peptic ulcers and their ulcers are less likely to heal. A person in Ireland is ten times more likely to die from smoking related diseases (6,000 each year) than die in traffic accidents.
Smoking also enhances the chances of other lung cancer causing properties of other elements, such as asbestos. Occupational asbestos exposure increases the chances of cancer over the general population five times. If smoking is added to the equation, the risk climbs to ninety times than that to the general public. Healthy lungs are able to clean themselves more easily. Mucus in the airways traps foreign particles, and cilia (tiny hairs in the lung) works to move the mucus and particulate matter up to be expelled by coughing. Macrophages (special mobile cells) in the airways also consume toxins. Tobacco smoke toxins increase mucus, but also, in essence, put the cilia to sleep, keeping them from expelling toxic particulates and overwhelming the macrophages. Foreign particulates like asbestos are less likely to be expelled and, thus, are more deadly.
You do not have to actually puff on a cigarette directly to put your life in danger or feel the effects of smoking. Environmental tobacco smoke (ETS) or “second hand smoke” also carries the same thousands of complex mixtures of toxic chemicals that are emitted directly through the cigarette and is harmful to non-smokers. However, many of the same elements and particles that are released in mainstream smoke are varied in concentration in side stream smoke due to the difference in the lower temperatures that generate them—the particulates of side stream smoke tend to form smaller particulates. But though some critics attack studies that suggest that ETS is a serious health risk are flawed and often biased, the fact remains that the chemicals in ETS breathed in by bystanders are not healthy. Prominent chemicals among the respiratory irritants carried in environmental tobacco smoke are ammonia, formaldehyde, and sulfur dioxide. Acrolein, hydrogen cyanide, nitrogen oxides, and phenol are also in the mix and affect mucociliary function and lung capacity. And we should not forget nicotine and its addictive qualities. Non-smokers exposed to ETS are 35% more likely to contract lung cancer and also more likely to develop cardio-respiratory symptoms. Infants exposed to significant ETS have more frequent respiratory problems than infants who live in non-smokers’ homes.
TOO YOUNG TO SMOKE
Though young people may tend to think themselves indestructible, young smokers are not immune to adverse effects of smoking. Compared to their non-smoking peers, young smokers have lower levels of lung function and a reduced rate of lung growth. Their resting heart rates are two to three beats per minute faster than non-smokers. Their overall physical fitness, in terms of performance and endurance is reduced, suffering from shortness of breath three times as often as non-smokers and producing twice as much phlegm. Smoking also seems to enhance young people’s interest in other destructive behaviors. They are three times more likely to use alcohol, eight times more likely to use marijuana, and twenty-two times more likely to use cocaine. Smoking may also indirectly cause harm. Studies also show that young smokers are also more likely to be involved in fighting and engaging in risky sexual activities.
“BUT, I LOOK SO COOL WHEN I SMOKE”
Science’s discoveries of the hazards of smoking during the twentieth century seem to have gone unnoticed or at least ignored by many of us. Images of smoking in the movies and on television have tended to reinforce notions of smoking as being “cool.” It is hard to find a depiction of a very manly private detective like Humphry Bogart or a sultry, sophisticated female character like Lauren Bacal’s without a cigarette hanging from their lips or perched delicately between their first and second fingers. In the 1950s, when smoking first became linked to lung cancer by the science community, and early 1960s, it was common to see television commercials showing very “manly” men and very attractive “sophisticated” women enjoying the “pleasures” of smoking. Magazine and other print advertisements in the 40s and 50s also expounded upon the “mental and physical” attributes of smoking:
“MAD AS A WET HEN? That’s natural when little annoyances ruffle you.
But the psychological fact is: pleasure helps your disposition. That’s why everyday pleasures, like smoking for instance, are important. If you’re a smoker, you’re wise to choose the cigarette that gives the most pleasure. And that’s a Camel!” “Gene Nelson, screen and stage star, says: ‘I’ve tried ‘em all. It’s Camels for me!”
Women were equally targeted:
“She swims… she rides… she’s typically modern in her zest for the active life.
Typically modern, too, in wanting to know the facts about the cigarette she
smokes. In choosing Camels, Dorothy Van Nuys enjoys the scientific assurance
of a slower-burning cigarette. That means more coolness, freedom from the
harsh, irritating qualities of excess heat… extra mildness. And she knows, from independent laboratory reports, that in the smoke of extra-mild Camels, there is less nicotine.”
Sadly, the Dorothy Van Nuyses of the period did not receive scientific assurance that the they were slowly killing themselves by smoking.
Advertisement of cigarettes and cigars on television and radio is no longer allowed, but advertisement in magazines and on billboards is allowed with accompanying warnings from the Surgeon General in small print. Everyone should be aware of the sure dangers of tobacco, but tobacco companies are allowed to continue to promote their product in seductive ways. As late as 1986, Camel was targeting youthful audiences in their advertisements with cartoon characters such as “Joe Camel,” a camel who could stand on his hind legs, wearing a cool leather jacket and smoking a cigarette. Memos for the advertisement campaign explain their goals:
1. Target Audience
It is recommended that creative efforts reflect a primary focus on developing advertising which is highly relevant, appealing, and motivational to 18-24 male smokers…
2. Advertising Objective
Overall, Camel advertising will be directed toward using peer acceptance/influence to provide the motivation for targeted smokers to select Camel….
Cigarette companies claim that advertisement is to entice smokers of one brand to come over to theirs, but the strategy conveniently ignores the obvious fact that cartoon characters likely have more appeal to 8 to 14-year-olds than 18 to 24-year-olds and that peer pressure is at least as likely to tempt youngsters to start as is it is to get a smoker to switch to a different brand.
As mentioned above, cigarette smoking has been declining in the United States. Since the 1960s, the peak of tobacco smoking in the US, tobacco use has dropped by approximately 40%. Between 1997 and 1999, teenage smokers between the 8th and 12th grades have declined two points on average across the board. The mandatory disclaimers of packaging and print advertisements along with public service advertisement campaigns against smoking have clearly had an impact. Governmental restrictions in recent years on smoking in public buildings and continued education about the health hazards of smoking have also helped convince smokers to give it up.
THE SMOKE IS DYING DOWN
In the final analysis, it is difficult to understand that smoking is still as popular as it is. Smoking and its associated problems, disease and death, are a seemingly intolerable inconveniences indeed. Smokers not only have more serious health problems and die quicker than the rest of us, but they spend lots of extra money each year in taxes on cigarettes and insurance premiums, and for the ever more expensive cigarettes themselves, with nothing of value to show for it. There are fewer and fewer places for smokers to pursue their habits—the non-smoking population are increasingly hostile to them. In their book, Tobacco War: Inside the California Battles, Stanton Glantz and Edith Balbach write, “The once-invincible industry has settled lawsuits for hundreds of billions of dollars. Many states are initiating major efforts to do something meaningful about the half-million deaths that tobacco causes in America every year. I am reminded of the lyrics to another popular song that concerns the tedious side of smoking: “And curse Sir Walter Raleigh, he was such a stupid git!” It seems clear that, in one way or another, smokers are an endangered species.
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